Jason Aldean, “They Don’t Know” (Broken Bow)
Aldean has never been shy about showing off his rock ’n’ roll side. To open his seventh album, Aldean rocks out again with “Lights Come On,” a strutting slice of Def Leppard-drenched rock featuring a guitar attack that sounds like he and the band are going to bust out Beastie Boys’ “Sabotage” at any moment. It’s no wonder the song, written by Tyler Hubbard and Brian Kelley of Florida Georgia Line, has already stomped its way to the top of the country charts.
Aldean’s wheelhouse, though, has drifted over the years to traditional country. And it’s a pure pleasure to hear him hammer out of the park these well-crafted stories of near-relationships and workin’-for-the-weekend folks. The wistful “In Case You Don’t Remember,” where he recalls a spring break fling that meant more to him than it did to her, captures an ache that sets Aldean apart from so many of today’s country bros.
The lovely “This Plane Don’t Go There” is the kind of bittersweet country ballad that Kenny Chesney used to build his early career, while “All Out of Beer” brings back the charm of straightforward ’80s rock and mixes it with enough of today’s country cool to create what should be another multigenerational smash.
The tender duet “First Time Again” with Kelsea Ballerini fits into the same pop crossover mold as his duet with Kelly Clarkson, “Don’t You Wanna Stay.”
As much as Aldean tries to keep his rocking side front and center, his creativity lies elsewhere. “They Don’t Know” opens with the rocking “Lights Come On,” but it closes with the more country-leaning “When the Lights Go Out,” perhaps a sign of where Aldean is really headed.
GLENN GAMBOA, Newsday
Clipping, “Splendor and Misery” (SubPop)
If there were any question how Daveed Diggs’ success in Broadway’s biggest story in years, “Hamilton,” would affect his avant, little noise-rap trio, “Splendor and Misery’s” 90-second interlude, “Long Way Away,” answers it with a bit of a cappella gospel. Then “True Believer” chimes in with a jaunty, “Dixie”-style singsong.
With far more drones than drums on hand, Clipping’s sophomore outing is a sci-fi concept opus fitting of both Diggs’ fussily intricate bars and his bandmates’ musique concrète machinations. “Splendor and Misery” is far more evenhanded and listenable than 2014’s “Clppng,” but it still dodges hooks enough to make Death Grips comparatively Lennon/McCartney. “All Black” name-checks Kendrick Lamar’s infamous “Control” verse — now there’s a guy who knows how to make the avant songful.
Dan Weiss, Philadelphia Inquirer
• Dawes, “We’re All Gonna Die”
• Mac Miller, “The Divine Feminine”
• Usher, “Hard II Love”
• Against Me, “Shape Shift With Me”
• Die Antwoord, “Mount Ninji and Da Nice Time Kid”
• Phantogram, “Three”
• Kool Keith, “Feature Magnetic”
• Meat Loaf, “Braver Than We Are”